Hertz was born in Hamburg, Germany, into a prosperous and cultured Hanseatic family. His father, Gustav Ferdinand Hertz, was a writer and later a senator. His mother was the former Anna Elisabeth Pfefferkorn. His paternal grandfather David Wolff Hertz (1757-1822), fourth son of Benjamin Wolff Hertz, moved to Hamburg in 1793 where he made his living as a jeweller.
Google Doodle on Heinrich Rudolf Hertz
A German physicist who clarified and expanded the electromagnetic theory of light that had been put forth by Maxwell. He was the first to satisfactorily demonstrate the existence of electromagnetic waves by building an apparatus to produce and detect radio waves.
Learn more about Heinrich Rudolf Hertz
His discoveries would later be more fully understood by others and be part of the new “wireless age”. In bulk, Hertz’ experiments explain reflection, refraction, polarization, interference, and velocity of electric waves.
In 1892, Hertz began experimenting and demonstrated that cathode rays could penetrate very thin metal foil (such as aluminium). Philipp Lenard, a student of Heinrich Hertz, further researched this “ray effect”. He developed a version of the cathode tube and studied the penetration by X-rays of various materials. Philipp Lenard, though, did not realize that he was producing X-rays. Hermann von Helmholtz formulated mathematical equations for X-rays.
He postulated a dispersion theory before Röntgen made his discovery and announcement. It was formed on the basis of the electromagnetic theory of light (Wiedmann’s Annalen, Vol. XLVIII). However, he did not work with actual X-rays
Although Hertz would not have considered himself Jewish, his “Jewish” portrait was removed by the Nazis from its prominent position of honor in Hamburg’s City Hall (Rathaus) because of his partly “Jewish ancestry.” Hertz was a Lutheran; and although his father’s family had been Jewish, his father had converted to Catholicism before marrying. The painting has since been returned to public display.
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